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16th Century Notes Uncovered in Bible Thanks to 3D X-Ray Imaging

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If you’ve ever gotten in trouble for writing in one of your textbooks, you should know that you were following in illustrious footsteps. In fact, one day your marginalia might even be the kind of thing that causes waves of excitement to crash across a community of historians. Of course, this is more likely if you are the type of person who grows up to be king, goes through wives like disposable cups, and eventually forms their own church in defiance of the Pope.

3247F02900000578-3496565-image-a-27_1458210254782Recently, the notes that were scribbled in the margins and across the blank spaces on pages of Henry VIII’s first printed bible, kept at Lambeth Palace Library, were uncovered by historian Dr. Eyal Poleg of Queen Mary University of London using 3D X-ray imaging. To be clear, these notes were most likely not written by Henry himself; in fact, it is unclear to whom the hand that wrote them belongs. What is clear is that some of the notes support the idea that the transformation from Catholicism to Anglicism was more gradual than originally assumed.

As Dr. Poleg explained:

“Until recently, it was widely assumed that the Reformation caused a complete break, a Rubicon moment when people stopped being Catholics and accepted Protestantism, rejected saints, and replaced Latin with English. This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing that the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process.”

3248140900000578-3496565-Written_between_1539_and_1549_the_notes_were_covered_and_disguis-a-2_1458213259785But looking at the notes was more difficult than one might initially assume. In fact, no one even knew they were there until this year. The additions had been cleverly ‘erased’ with a covering of thick paper that effectively hid them from view until Dr. Poleg began to suspect that something lay between the sheets. This suspicion was quickly confirmed but the historian was confronted with a difficult issue: how to reveal the writing beneath without damaging the pages of this extremely rare book?

Dr. Poleg worked with a specialist in 3D X-ray imagining, Dr. Graham Davis, of Queen Mary University’s School of Dentistry. The first step was to confirm the existence of the notes, which was done by sliding a light sheet under the pages. The next step was to make them legible, no small task given that they were covered by a sheet of paper, visible at the same time as the material on the opposite side of the page, written in 16th century abbreviated English, and not in the neatest of handwriting.

The research team did this by taking two long exposure images of the annotated pages, one with the written notes visible and one without, and then using a program written by Dr. Davis, they were able to subtract the printed text leaving only the notes. The notes themselves contained information about the timing of certain readings and other notes taken from Thomas Cromwell’s Great Bible that mark the turn from traditional mass. On the last page of the bible is a decidedly worldly bit of writing documenting a transaction between a Mr. Cheffyn and Mr. Cutpurse in which the latter agrees to pay 20 shillings to the former or suffer internment in Marshalsea prison.

3247C45700000578-3496565-image-a-2_1458208344437It appears that at least some of the bible’s message of mercy and forgiveness may not have been close enough at hand to help poor Mr. Cutpurse as he was hanged in July of 1552. Though his immortality has been assured in some small way as a result. Discuss this amazing story in 3D Technology Helps Understand Bible forum over at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Daily Mail]

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